By Kevin Scheiwiller of Citizens for Conservation
As many practitioners know, wetlands can be one of the most frustrating and resource demanding areas to restore. Countless wetland plantings have shown a large flush in native diversity in the first few years just to be overrun by the seed bank of the “wetland thugs;” cattails, reed canary grass, and phragmites. At Citizens for Conservation, we had left most of our wetlands alone for this reason. That was until we enlisted the help of the warrior sedges.
Who are the warrior sedges? These 10 species of Carex were hand selected based on their tendency to be able to withstand invasion by the wetland thugs in the few remaining local remnant wetlands. They are all highly rhizomatous species, that when planted in a focused manner can create a tight native matrix strong enough to keep out the invasion of the wetland thugs.
So what? Why replace one monoculture with another? We have found that while these warrior sedge matrices are dense enough to keep out the thugs, they are not inhibiting the growth of other native wetland species such as Sneezeweed, Monkey Flower, Mad-Dog Skullcap, Blue Flag Iris, and others. All these wetland associates have coevolved for millennia and still seem to understand how to grow together.
The hardened restoration ecologist will wonder how long this wetland planting will keep out the wetland thugs. Time will be the true test, but after a decade of using this technique we have been able to reclaim pothole wetlands and a long stretch of streambank. All of which requires a very small amount of maintenance after year three of this method.
For a detailed explanation of the process see “The Way of the Warriors.” https://www.nachusagrasslands.org/uploads/5/8/4/6/58466593/the_way_of_the_warriors.pdf